Ventana Gold Corp.
Ventana Gold Corp. barely has entered its fifth year in Colombia’s mining industry, but already President and CEO Stephen Orr believes the company has discovered a project that could position it as Colombia’s leading precious metals producer. Ventana’s La Bodega project, an 880-hectare property in northeastern Colombia, resides in the historical California-Vetas mining district initially mined by the Spaniards in the 1500s. Until now, mining projects in the area have been small scale, but Orr says Ventana and other exploration companies in the area are determined to change that.
“Since drilling our first hole at La Bodega, we’ve consistently been able to hit mineralization and expand the resource,” Orr says. “We initially began with two major zones and have since discovered two other zones.”
La Bodega’s four major discovery zones are La Bodega, La Mascota, Las Mercedes and Aserredero, with La Bodega and La Mascota having the most prolific mineralization. In 2008, Ventana issued its first estimate of inferred resources from 128,000 meters of drilling across La Bodega’s zones.
It showed an estimate of 3.5 million ounces of gold, 19.2 million ounces of silver and approximately 85 million pounds of copper.
“All the zones of mineralization are still completely open, at-depth and along strike,” Orr says. “Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will be increasing exploration drills and adding 13 additional drill holes to take us up to 23 exploration drills. Our objective there is to double the resource, which we think we can do.”
The company says this new drill program will explore different areas, extending the mineralization at-depth and to the southwest along with testing for new, parallel mineral zones.
This new drill program has begun, and in February 2011, the company released additional results that demonstrated that it is extending its 3.5 million ounces of inferred gold resources. Even the Las Mercedes and Aserradero zones continue to show promise. Ventana intercepted 5 meters of 15.03 grams per tonne of gold and 47.35 grams per tonne of silver along a southwest extension zone of Las Mercedes. At Aserradero, the company intercepted 10 meters of 2.71 grams per tonne of gold. Through further exploration, the company seeks to upgrade the initial 2008 resources from inferred to indicated and measured.
“Our objective, and the objective of a number of those conducting exploration in Colombia, is in making discoveries of sufficient size to support large scale mining operations that can provide significant benefit to the Colombian economy,” Orr says. “Our project objective
at La Bodega is to finish the feasibility study by mid-2012 and submit an environmental impact statement to get consent to construct and commission the mine by mid-2014.”
Ventana’s scoping study – based on the project’s mineral resource – estimates an expected 14-year mine life producing 7,500 tonnes per day.
While La Bodega continues to evolve as Ventana’s flagship property, the company also is in the grassroots stage of another project south of La Bodega named Cal-Vetas, which also is within the California-Vetas mining district. In 2008, Ventana conducted a geochemical survey of its 3,710-hectare Cal-Vetas project by taking 233 stream sediment samples and 1,190 soil samples collected from a 100-meter distance along ridge crests of the property. The survey showed precious metals and traces of copper at the property. Orr says this area has not had the same amount of exploration that surrounds the La Bodega project, in fact, the company reports only scattered relic mines left by the 16th-century Spaniards and a few active small gold mines in the area. While there is little exploration in the area, the presence of past and current small-scale mining still signifies potential for discovery.
During its geochemical survey, Ventana identified five potential targets and plans to start test drilling an initial target, La Francia, at the end of this year’s first quarter. Surface sampling at this site generated assays in the range of 30 grams per tonne of precious metals along a strike length of 800 meters.
As Ventana continues to develop its sites at the California-Vetas district, it also is partnering with local agencies to improve the area’s road network. At this time, the project is accessed from Bucaramanga. From there, the route to Cal-Vetas is a 34-mile partially paved road.
Developing infrastructure is one of many ways Ventana actively partners with the communities in which it works. As it explores Columbia’s natural resources, Ventana makes sure to minimize its adverse environmental impacts.
“We have policies that you would find with any reputable exploration company that’s developing a project,” Orr says. “For instance, in Columbia, [oak trees] are a protected species. So we have a program where we are growing oaks in a nursery to help proliferate the species. So for every oak removed, it will be replaced with multiple trees.”
The company also takes measures to maintain the regions’ water quality. Every quarter, Ventana collects water samples form the creeks, rivers and other water outlets and sends them to a certified lab for analysis. This proactive approach allows the company to detect and correct any early changes in water quality resulting from its work.
Stella Frias, manager of administration and community relations, serves as an advisor on Ventana’s projects that related to community development. As a native Colombian, she has worked for several mining companies as a community liaison. Her 20 years of experience add to what Orr believes is Ventana’s major strength – its leadership team.
“John Lehmann, our vice president of exploration, is a superb explorationist, and he has made one of the best discoveries in South America,” Orr says of Lehmann’s discovery of La Bodega in 2006, a discovery that Frias also was influential in making. “Blair Way is our vice president of project development, and he has worked on building projects throughout the world. We are starting to build a good development team, and our management is a definite strength for the company.”